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Empty Nests Are Superhero Territory

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Saturday was a big shopping day. It was also a big sobbing day. My Facebook feed was filled with the lamentations of many of my mom friends who had spent the day filling carts with all the necessities and must-haves for their kids going off to college for the first time. Two confessed to breaking down in the store aisles with no apparent warning. One moment they were weighing the value of two different kinds of sheets, and the next they were bawling uncontrollably.

All moms rank as Superheroes of Love in my book because they are, on a daily basis, asked to be extraordinary, to be bigger and better than they may feel like being at any given moment. Around this moment though, in particular, I bow to the moms who are all doing their damndest to be strong for their kids, encouraging them to take flight, to be courageous, to take the first step in making their own dreams come true.

Then late at night as they try to fall asleep, these same moms silently cheer themselves on, repeating to themselves that they, too, can be courageous and let their children fly into the world. Even if their husbands are doing a valiant job keeping their own selves together and are buoying up their wives as best they can, moms have to do their own silent inner work to get through this rite of passage.

I never wanted to be a mom. I knew it when I was young. I also knew my dad wanted to be a grandpa so badly, so as his only child, I had to break it to him gently. He didn't believe me at first, tried to convince me and told me I would change my mind. One day I think I must have said it in just the right way though, and he finally believed me. I think it broke a little piece of his heart, yet I also knew it wasn't my path. It is a noble path for the mightiest of hearts.

I've stretched my heart this way and that in the course of my adventures. I've been a Superhero of Love in my own right, growing my heart bigger than I thought it could ever grow. But, I don't think I have ever had to grow my heart as big as my friends are all doing right now. I am blessed to be surrounded by friends who have great relationships with their kids. The kids are strong and independently expressing themselves, but they also dig their parents.

The most beautiful thing my dad ever said to me was, "I know you know I love you, but I want you to know I really like you too." It's a very cool thing when kids and parents like each other. But it makes this fly away thing all the more painful.

A friend just recently told me she had found a baby bird in her backyard. She assumed from its size that it couldn't fly, but when she turned to do something and turned back around it had alighted on a table. Perhaps that was its first flight. From above, she heard its mother loudly squawking instructions to the baby below. She turned again and a moment later the baby had found its way to a chair. Another successful trans-space adventure! The momma continued screeching admonitions from afar, but really all was well.

I bow to the moms out there whose hearts are being stretched, whose squawks they are keeping largely to themselves, and whose own new flight patterns have yet to begin.

It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's a Superhero Mom!